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Apple forced to halt iPhone sales in Germany as Qualcomm enforces ban

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U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm said Thursday it had fulfilled the requirements set out by a court in a patent dispute case against Apple to ban the sale of older iPhone models in Germany.

U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc took steps to enforce a court order banning the sale of some iPhone models in Germany, a move that will likely see Apple Inc pull those models from its German stores.

A spokesman for Gravis, Germany's biggest reseller of Apple products which is owned by telecoms company Freenet, on Friday said it still had all Apple products on sale, including the iPhone 7 and 8 models.

Qualcomm a day earlier posted bonds of 1.34 billion euros ($1.5 billion) as part of a legal requirement by a German court, which found on Dec. 20 that Apple had infringed Qualcomm patents on power-saving technology used in smartphones.

Apple had earlier said it would pull iPhone 7 and 8 models from its 15 retail stores in Germany when the order came into force. That order took effect when Qualcomm posted the bonds.

Apple declined to comment on Qualcomm's most recent move on Thursday.

The German case is Qualcomm's third major effort to secure a ban on Apple's lucrative iPhones over patent infringement allegations after similar moves in the United States and China, and is part of a global patent spat between the two companies.

According to the court order, Apple has to stop the sale, offer for sale and importation for sale of all infringing iPhones in Germany. Apple had said it was appealing the decision.

The court also ordered Apple to recall the affected iPhones from third-party resellers in Germany, according to a statement by Qualcomm.

In its previous statement on the decision, Apple had said it would continue to offer all of its phones at thousands of retail and carrier locations across Germany, a direct contradiction to Qualcomm's interpretation of the order.

The Munich regional court was not immediately available for comment.

Kai Ruting, a German lawyer not involved in the case, said the court order was directed at Apple entities rather than third parties.

"These third parties are still free to sell the (affected) iPhones, and they sell the majority of iPhones," Ruting said, adding, "the question of a settlement will be driven by the U.S. litigation and not the German case."

Ruting said that Apple had strong arguments for the German court's ruling to be reversed on appeal. If that happens, Qualcomm's bond will be used to compensate Apple, he said.

Apple's announced intention to pull iPhones from stores in Germany contrasts with how it has handled a court decision in China, where there was a much broader ban on iPhone sales after a court ruled the devices violated Qualcomm's patents. Apple has continued to sell phones in China, saying it believed its phones were legal in the country.

Still, Apple also pushed a software update to address concerns over whether it was in compliance with Chinese courts.

Qualcomm has said those software updates were insufficient and that Apple must still withdraw its phones. Apple had filed a request for the Chinese court to reconsider its decision, but no outcome has been announced.

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